Chargers vs. Ravens matchups: Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson could light it up

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Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball at Denver on Oct. 3, 2021.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a threat to run or pass and has guided Baltimore to a 4-1 start this season. (Bart Young / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Chargers (4-1) and the Baltimore Ravens (4-1) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The game will be carried on CBS (Channel 2).

When Chargers have the ball: Only three teams entered Week 6 having surrendered more yards passing than Baltimore. One of those teams was Dallas, and Justin Herbert torched the Cowboys for 338 yards in Week 2. True, that’s the only game the Chargers have lost, but Herbert has to be looking forward to facing a defense that has been vulnerable against the pass. The Chargers could be without Mike Williams, who is their leader in yards receiving and touchdowns, because of a knee injury. Coach Brandon Staley said Friday the team was “hopeful” Williams could play, which sounded encouraging. Williams has played through injuries in the past. After opening the season with touchdowns on only three of 10 red-zone trips, the Chargers have converted on 12 of 14 visits. The Ravens are tied for sixth in red-zone defense. Some early success could propel the Chargers, who scored touchdowns on their final four full possessions last week in a 47-42 win over Cleveland. Austin Ekeler scored three of those in the final 7½ minutes. Last season, he had three touchdowns in 10 games. So this is a group that should enter Sunday feeling good about its chances and its quarterback, Herbert having thrown for 11 touchdowns over the last three weeks.

When Ravens have the ball: Baltimore rolled up 523 yards Monday in an overtime victory over Indianapolis. Quarterback Lamar Jackson accounted for 504 of those yards — 442 through the air and 62 on the ground. “You’re seeing a player that’s never played in the NFL,” Staley said. “There have been some guys similar, but there hasn't been anybody like Lamar Jackson. He’s truly one of a kind. He’s truly a rare player, rare competitor.” The Chargers sacked Jackson seven times in a wild-card win following the 2018 season, but that feels like an era ago and was, in fact, Jackson’s playoff debut. He finished that day with 194 yards passing. On Monday, Jackson had 194 yards passing in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Chargers haven’t faced Jackson since and Staley — including his previous jobs as an assistant with Chicago, Denver and the Rams — never has coached against him. The Chargers have struggled notably in a couple of games stopping the run, and Jackson is the Ravens’ leading rusher. If this is starting to sound like one man against one team, that is kind of the idea. Still, Jackson has received enough support — particularly from tight end Mark Andrews and wideout Marquise Brown — to have Baltimore sitting at 4-1.

When they kick: The Chargers’ Tristan Vizcaino has missed four extra-point attempts over the last three games, bringing to mind the team’s placekicker woes in recent years. The Chargers publicly remain supportive of the rookie. The Ravens counter with Justin Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Tucker has made 90.7% of his field-goal tries since entering the league in 2012.

Jeff Miller’s prediction: As a reminder, these forecasts are for amusement proposes only. So far, this space is 2-3 straight up and 1-4 against the spread. Here’s hoping you find those records amusing.

CHARGERS 35, RAVENS 31

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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